The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 900-881


900. Local Hero (1983) Dir. Bill Forsyth, 111 mins.

Years before Donald Trump built a golf course in his mother’s native Scotland, Burt Lancaster played the wealthy American angering locals with his development plans.

899. Antonio das Mortes (1969) Dir. Glauber Rocha, 100 mins.

Rocha’s highly stylised, inverted western masterpiece is set in the wilderness of the Brazilian north east. Having already appeared as the hired bandit killer for the church and landlords in Black God, White Devil, the eponymous mercenary is back, but this time he turns away from corrupt authority and becomes a revolutionary. Part fact and part legend the hallucinogenic western blends social banditry with the mysticism of messianic religion.

898. Closely Watched Trains (1966) Dir. Jiri Menzel, 93 mins.

The film is a coming-of-age story about a young man working at a train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II.

897. In the Realm of the Senses (1976) Dir. Nagisa Oshima, 108 mins.

Set in 1930s Japan, the film is a fictionalised and sexually explicit treatment of an incident between geisha and prostitute Sada Abe and her lover, Kichizō Ishida.

896. Excalibur (1981) Dir. John Boorman, 140 mins.

Based on the 15th century Arthurian romance Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory and directed, produced and co-written by maverick film maker John Boorman, Excalibur is an audacious attempt to place the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table into less than 2 1/2 hours. Born out of a failed attempt to make Lord of the Rings, the film is much more than a mere sword and sorcery blockbuster and has some truly stunning visual sequences, even if some may struggle with the overly theatrical style. More…

895. Bambi (1942) Dir. David Hand, 70 mins.

With splendid animation the film tells the touching story of male deer Bambi from his birth, through to his early childhood experiences and particularly his memorable friendship with Thumper the rabbit. The tale takes a tragic turn with the traumatic loss of his mother at the hands of hunters and moves on to him falling in love and battling to save his friends from a forest fire. Was placed 3rd in the animation category of the AFI’s 10 Top 10 in 2008. Watch

894. The Birds (1963) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 119 mins.

Loosely based on the 1952 story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, the film focuses on a series of sudden, unexplained violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega Bay, California over the course of a few days. Perhaps dented by comparisons to the brilliance of Hitchcock’s previous three films (VertigoNorth by Northwest and Psycho)The Birds was uneasily received at the time of release, but is now lauded for its masterful suspense.

893. Branded to Kill (1967) Dir. Seijun Suzuki, 98 mins.

Having been promoted from making low budget action B films, Suzuki was gradually decreasing the importance of rational and logical story when he made the gangster film, Branded to Kill. The plot, which generic conventions dictate should be clear, was transformed into a labyrinth. The story follows Goro Hanada in his life as a contract killer. He falls in love with a woman named Misako, who recruits him for a seemingly impossible mission. When the mission fails, he becomes hunted by the phantom Number One Killer, whose methods threaten his sanity as much as his life.

892. The Rise of Louis XIV (1966) Dir. Roberto Rossellini, 100 mins.

Made for French television, the film revolves around the French king Louis XIV’s rise to power after the death of his powerful adviser, Cardinal Mazarin. To achieve this political autonomy, Louis must deal with his mother and the court nobles, all of whom make the assumption that Mazarin’s death will give them more power. The film shows off Rossellini’s remarkable eye for historical detail and Jean-Marie Patte’s performance, as the larger than life Louis, may change the way you think about acting.

891. Barton Fink (1991) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 116 mins.

The Coen brothers happily deliver a scathing attack on their own industry with this Kafkaesque drama, set in 1941, that follows a young New York realist playwright (John Turturro) who is hired by a Hollywood film studio to script a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. He’s quickly struggling and isn’t helped by having to deal with a hellishly nasty movie mogul (an Oscar nominated turn by Michael Lerner) and his next door neighbour, insurance salesman (John Goodman), who has murder on his mind. Despite all this our hero refuses to throw away his artistic ideals in the face of the industry’s commercialism. There’s plenty to enjoy here, from the beautifully designed sets, to the dark humour and superbly crafted narrative.

890. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 103 mins.

The film tells the story of a young witch, Kiki, who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to earn a living delivering for a bakery. A charming, warm coming of age tale that’s beautifully animated.

889. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 164 mins.

Having tried for many years to make an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s book of the same name, funding finally arrived for Scorsese off the back of the commercial success of The Color of Money. Like the novel, the film depicts the conflict between the human and divine sides of Jesus Christ, showing his struggles with various forms of temptation including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust. The film suffered from protests by religious groups which prevented many exhibitors from showing it and whilst the strong American accents will put some off, it has some arresting imagery.

888. Stolen Kisses (1968) Dir. Francois Truffaut, 90 mins.

It continues the story of the character Antoine Doinel, whom Truffaut had previously depicted in The 400 Blows and the short film Antoine and Colette. In this film, Antoine begins his relationship with Christine Darbon.

887. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) Dir. Philip Kaufman, 171 mins.

Director Philip Kaufman and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière portray the effect on Czechoslovak artistic and intellectual life during the 1968 Prague Spring of socialist liberalisation preceding the invasion by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact that ushered in a period of communist repression. It portrays the moral, political, and psycho-sexual consequences for three bohemian friends, a surgeon, and two female artists with whom he has a sexual relationship.

886. Black God, White Devil (1964) Dir. Glauber Rocha, 120 mins.

Set in 1940s Brazil during a drought in the wilderness of the north east, the film is a densely metaphorical story of a peasant couple. The husband, a ranch hand named Manuel, is fed up with his situation and when his boss tries to cheat him of his earnings, he kills him and flees with his wife, Rosa. Now an outlaw, Manuel becomes involved with the ‘Black God’ a messianic religious leader and then the ‘White Devil’ a bandit. Displaying a range of cinematic influences including long takes and montage sequences, Rocha’s western depicts the dangers for the uneducated peasantry in going up against unsympathetic landowners when they don’t know where to place their allegiance.

885. Dances With Wolves (1990) Dir. Kevin Costner, 224 mins.

At the forefront of the modest revival of the western genre in the early 90s, Dances With Wolves, was a personal triumph for director and star Kevin Costner. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake that tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post, and of his dealings with a group of Lakota Indians. The film self-consciously sought to represent the culture and perspective of the Indians that the traditional Hollywood western had ideologically erased from view. This was rewarded by Dances With Wolves being the first Western to win the Oscar for Best Picture since Cimarron in 1930.

884. Eyes Without a Face (1960) Dir. Georges Franju, 88 mins.

Franju’s influential chiller, an adaptation of Jean Redon’s novel, follows a brilliant but crazed surgeon who resorts to horrifying measures to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured face. It was met with disgust by some critics when first released but is now lauded for its visual poetry.

883. The Road Warrior (1981) Dir. George Miller, 95 mins.

Having avenged the death of his wife and child in the original film, hardened “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) returns to patrol the dusty highways of a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland where he fights off nomadic tribes. However, the cynical drifter begins to recover some humanity when he is drawn into protecting a  community of settlers from a roving band of marauders. The film follows an archetypal “Western” frontier movie motif, but still feels strikingly original thanks to stunning visuals, Gibson’s star performance and an influential comic book style. With a bigger budget than the first instalment, it delivers even more in the way of relentless and disturbing action scenes. More…

882. Imitation of Life (1959) Dir. Douglas Sirk, 125 mins.

Lana Turner stars as a would-be actress who is raising her daughter on her own. She chances to meet another single mother at the beach, African-American Juanita Moore. Moore goes to work as Turner’s housekeeper, bringing her light-skinned daughter along. As Turner’s stage career goes into high gear, Moore is saddled with the responsibility of raising both Turner’s daughter and her own. Exposed to the advantages of the white world, Moore’s grown-up daughter (Susan Kohner) passes for white, causing her mother a great deal of heartache. Watch

881. Holiday (1938) Dir. George Cukor, 95 mins.

A magical romantic comedy that tells of a man (a charming Cary Grant) who has risen from humble beginnings only to be torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée’s New York society family. Things are complicated further when he catches the romantic eye of his fiancee’s more free spirited sister (Katherine Hepburn). Hepburn, has perhaps, never quite lit up the screen quite like this, although she has plenty of help from a terrific supporting cast and an amusing and touching script. Watch


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